Amesha Spenta is a 9-minute musical composition for two pianos and orchestra (2fls., 2cls., 2obs., 2bsns., 2hns., 2tpts., tbn. b. tbn. , timp., perc., and strings). It incorporates the Zoroastrian story of creation as its narrative framework and is the account of a struggle between the Zorastrian deity, Ahura Mazda, and its adversary, Angra Mainyu (the destructive spirit). Angra Mainyu, later referred to as Ahriman, is the oldest known portrayal of the devil in a sacred text. The Amesha Spenta are six divinities, each possessing a different divine character, created by Ahura Mazda with the intention of protecting the world, and defeating the evil Angra Mainyu. There is a close correlation between the dualism of good and evil as portrayed in Zoroastrianism, and the concerto form utilized in the composition: in both, we see a struggle for dominance between the various forces present.
This piece is on one hand an attempt to cultivate better understanding of the Zoroastrian culture particularly in the United States, Canada, and Iran, and on the other, demonstrates the interconnectivity of musical traditions as far East as India, and as far West as Greece. My research shows a clear relationship between Zoroastrian chant, which dates back to 1500 BCE, and its successors, Western plainchant, and the Quranic recitation. While the work doesn’t contain any direct references to Zoroastrian chant, it incorporates Persian folk melodies, and shares commonalities with descendants of the above styles.
Amesha Spenta aspires to address important current global concerns, including the persecution and unjust treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in countries such as Iran, while bringing these issues to the attention of a morally divided North American society. It aims to find cultural and artistic commonalities between various ethnic groups, to unite the followers of these religions through the language of music, and to celebrate them for their diversity.
March 19, 2017 – Piano Pinnacle and Ann Arbor Camerata, Britton Hall, University of Michigan
May 26, 2018 – Oklahoma Composers Orchestra with Charlotte Dumesnil and Sandra Coursey, Oklahoma City
Performed by Piano Pinnacle (Deborah Grimmett and Iman Habibi) and Ann Arbor Camerata conducted by Victor Huls – Concert Programme Notes
Live recording, March 19, 2017, Britton Hall, Ann Arbor, MI
Excerpt, starting at m. 44 (continue scrolling for the complete performance)